The France and Ukraine Group D match may have been delayed by thunderstorms, but it only served the purpose of extending what turned out to be a dominant showing by the French.
Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye each had a goal at the onset of the second half, sending France to a 2-0 win against an overmatched Ukraine squad that failed to replicate their opening match magic against Sweden. The win also served as a watershed moment for Les Blues, who ended a six-year winless run in international matches, dating back to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup.
The match was barely five minutes old when officials decided to suspend play because of the torrential downpour. But even with the delayed match, the French didn’t lose any step, showing the kind of form that has made them one of the tournament’s dark horses.
Menez opened the scoring early in the second half after collecting a pass from Karim Benzema and slotting in a low show that found the near post. Moments later, Frank Ribery, Samir Nasri, and Benzema all displayed the kind of exquisite, one-touch passing that has been their team’s hallmark, leading to a streaking Cabaye collecting the ball in the penalty area and finishing with an angle shot that slammed past the hands of Ukrainian goalie Andriy Pyatov.
With the win, France now sits on top of the Group D table with four points, tied with England but ahead on points differential. Ukraine still sits third with three points and will need to win against England to secure a spot in the final 8.
The other Group D match between England and Sweden didn’t get any delays, but it ended up being the most exciting match in the tournament so far.
Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck came up with the game-winning goal in the 78th minute, scoring one of the most incredible goals in the tournament so far, giving the Three Lions a 3-2 win over a Sweden squad that blew a late lead, thus ending their tournament chances.
England striker Andy Caroll put the Three Lions ahead with a powerful header in the 23rd minute, only to see Sweden equalize courtesy of a demoralizing own goal from England defenseman Glen Johnson. The Swedes then turned the tables on their opponents, going up, 2-1, thanks to a header from Olof Mellberg in the 59th minute.
With their tournament lives on the balance, the English squad found a couple of heroes in Welbeck and Theo Walcott, who tied the match in the 64th minute, before setting up Welbeck for the dramatic late-match winner.
The win puts England in prime position to secure one of the two quarterfinal spots in the group while Sweden’s late crash means that the tournament is all but over for them.